Several of us have gone over what the Broncos may need to do to clear cap space to make way for extensions for pending free agents. Here, I will go over the moves the Broncos are very likely to make, what the cap space will look like after that and the effect of the other moves and what that would mean for the Broncos’ ability to extend other players.
Let’s start with the Broncos’ estimated cap space and a list of the moves the Broncos will likely make:
* Current estimated cap space: $7.36M
* Cap space after Peyton Manning’s retirement/release: $26.36M
* Cap space after Britton Colquitt’s release: $29.61M
* Cap space after ERFA tenders applied to Brandon McManus, Bennie Fowler, Todd Davis, Matt Paradis and Sam Brenner: $26.68M
* Cap space after first-round RFA tender applied to Brandon Marshall: $23.33M
* Cap space after second-round RFA tender applied to CJ Anderson: $20.9M
* Cap space after franchise tag applied to Von Miller: $7.819M
* Cap space after re-signing Josh Bush and Lerentee McCray to one-year deals at the minimum: $6.384M
I believe it’s a no-brainer for the Broncos to tender all five ERFAs, that a first-round tender will come for Marshall and a second-round tender for Anderson. We know Miller gets the franchise tag and I would suspect the Broncos won’t have issues signing Bush and McCray (the latter is an RFA and Spotrac lists the former as one) to one-year deals at the minimum for players of their experience because they amount to pocket change.
Next, the Broncos are likely to gain additional space once the NFL announce the league-wide cap limit. Estimates are it will range from $150M to $153M, but those are conservatives estimates. I’m going to assume a little more than a $154M limit, which would mean roughly an additional $5M in cap space for the Broncos to work with, giving them $11.384M.
Now let’s look at possible scenarios and what they would mean.
Scenario 1: Release Ryan Clady, DeMarcus Ware and Louis Vasquez
Cap space available: $35.784M
If you just cut all three players, you are in excellent position to extend Brock Osweiler, Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan, plus add a free agent offensive lineman or two. I would not expect all three to be released, though, but if you are of the belief it’s better to lock up Osweiler and the Broncos’ top two defensive free agents, this is the scenario you will follow.
Scenario 2: Reduce/restructure deals for Clady, Ware and Vasquez
Cap space availabe: $18.384M
This assumes a Clady deal like in my earlier example, a pay cut for Ware to $5M and a pay cut for Vasquez to $3M. In this case, you can extend Osweiler and you might be able to fit in a deal for Jackson, but Trevathan is certainly gone. I’m sure this would be the Broncos’ ideal scenario, though it may not be possible.
Scenario 3: Restructure Clady deal, release Ware, cut or trade Vasquez
Cap space available: $26.384M
This scenario allows you to easily extend Osweiler and Jackson, although you would have to find a free agent guard and thus it would be difficult to extend Trevathan. If you choose to keep Ware on a pay cut to $5M, you have $21.384M in cap space, which means Trevathan is gone because you need that space for another free agent guard.
I do believe it will be difficult to keep Jackson and Ware together, though, unless Ware agrees to a pay cut or some other method of freeing up cap space. Ware has indicated he would like to return to the Broncos, so perhaps he will be accommodating.
UPDATE 2/14/16: For those who wish to experiment with salary cap maneuvers and see what moves would costs, you can check Over the Cap salary cap calculator for the Broncos.